The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 17
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 17 – The comforting branch breaks
In spite of the reassurances that accompanied the return of Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood from the United States recently, the very closest of political circles had known for quite a while that her passing would just be a matter of time. Newspaper editors and those in charge of the electronic media have been put on standby since the first day of her return. Senior writers were put to work writing Endon’s obituary about ten days ago. It was expected that her situation had reached a point of no return when even the highest ranking ministers of the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government were not allowed to visit her at the Putrajaya hospital.
Two days prior to her death, Abdullah’s closest friends had congregated for daily Yaasin readings at the official residence of the Prime Minister. The public was given an implicit signal of the worsening condition of the Prime Minister’s wife through a statement which urged them not to impose on Abdullah as he had to spend “quality time” with Endon. A further indication of the increasing concern of Abdullah’s family regarding Endon’s health was evident by several sudden cancellations of public functions to be attended by Khairy Jamaluddin and Nori Abdullah in the days preceding Endon’s demise.
There is no doubt that Endon Mahmood is a far more popular politician’s wife than many others of that ilk. Certainly, she is comparable to Tun Siti Hasmah in her ability to play a soothing influence on those who have been wounded by her husband’s actions. Both come from similar backgrounds, being career women who abandoned their individual ambitions to support their husbands’ foray into politics. Both Hasmah and Endon are Selangor-born children of high level civil servants whose families have either produced or been related to many of the Malay ruling and administrative elite of the first half of the 20th century. No one mistakes Hasmah’s and Endon’s mannerism for those of the shrew-like behaviour of many other political wives. They carry themselves with the grace that complements their husbands’ necessary more abrupt style.
No one, for example, criticised Endon for being an unduly bad influence on Abdullah in the way that Rosmah Mansor is often deemed to be for her husband, Najib Tun Razak. More importantly, either by choice or because of her long debilitating illness, Endon did not play the role of gatekeeper to Abdullah like Rosmah does for Najib. It is a well-known fact that Najib could easily be influenced through Rosmah’s appeals on behalf of various interested politicians and hopeful businessmen. But Endon did not really play that role — although in the short period following Abdullah’s ascension to the premiership, her sisters, nephews and nieces (the Mahmood Ambak family) received many favours. Mahmood Ambak’s children and grandchildren quickly found themselves in control of various government projects ranging from the supply of software to schools under the Ministry of Education’s RM100 million programme to the brokerage of products between OIC member countries engineered by the Malaysian presidency of that organisation.
Yet it is doubtful Endon herself played a role in securing these contracts for her family. She was, after all, far from the maddening hive of activity that surrounded the early days of Abdullah’s tenure in office. Instead, she spent her time largely in overseas hospitals and local recuperating clinics. If the awards to Mahmood Ambak’s family were at all influenced by anyone, it was through the good graces of Khairy Jamaluddin on behalf of his wife, Nori. In addition, one cannot forget that many of the awards were given by sycophantic ministers eager to curry favour and brown-nose the new government of Abdullah Badawi. Within the high ranks of politics, it is known that Abdullah Badawi’s own family had little favours given to them by Abdullah himself. On the other hand, they received their largesse from Mahathir in the dying days of his premiership. It was Mahmood Ambak’s family that eagerly sought after government contracts and were generously rewarded for their persistence.
Endon’s role was therefore not dissimilar to that of Dr Siti Hasmah whose relatives too benefited at the expense of Mahathir’s own kin. Yet, with the passing of Endon Mahmood from the scene, it is unlikely that her siblings and relatives of similar age would continue to get the favourable treatment they received in the last one and a half years. More likely, attention will now shift to those who are of the same generation as Endon’s own two children.
Endon’s role in Khairy Jamaluddin’s life was relatively benign. She did not object to Nori’s head-over-heels and sometimes irrational obsession with Khairy during their courtship. She had remarked with bemusement when Nori used one of Khairy’s portraits as the wallpaper to her computer at ISIS. However, one of the main reasons for Endon’s reception of Khairy was the close ties she had with Khairy’s mother, Datin Rahmah Abdul Hamid. Their friendship went back to the old days, even prior to their respective marriages to two men who ended up working as senior civil servants in the same ministry some time in the middle of the 1970s.
When Khairy was a budding politician and only recently ensconced to the role of chaperone extraordinary to Nori Abdullah, Endon placed Rahmah in a key position within a newly-favoured setup called the Muslim Women’s Action Association (PERTIWI). In that capacity, PERTIWI played a role of generating ground support for Khairy from amongst the ‘Mak Datins’ and other similar middle-aged women who are wives or widows of former high-ranking civil servants. When Khairy came under criticism for his lack of experience in what seemed to some an obscene meteoric rise to power, it was PERTIWI which led letter campaigns in the New Straits Times, The Star and Utusan Malaysia to describe Khairy as an ‘able, competent and highly-educated’ young man.
PERTIWI and others of that ilk were used by Khairy in order to generate debate in his favour. This was often started off by a planted piece written by Khairy’s unofficial Press Secretary Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan and other paid journalist of that persuasion. PERTIWI would then be free to write letters in support of these articles, painting a favourable picture for Khairy. Of course, letters to the contrary were also received but they were never published. This concerted effort seems hardly necessary now that Khairy is so high up the political hierarchy of the nation. But in the early days, when his hold on office was tenuous and shaky, it assisted him to give the public a perception of grassroots support. In actual fact, the old aunties who wrote these letters were bored and desperate housewives who hoped to gain favour with Endon and Datin Rahmah.
Endon herself looked upon Khairy as a genuine pillar of support for Abdullah. She was, in fact, quite grateful that Khairy was able to assist Abdullah and did not demand too much attention from Nori, who herself had to carry the role her mother was unable to play. Endon was not someone who put pressure on Khairy’s marriage, even when she sometimes expressed her disappointment of the slowness of the Khairy-Nori couple in starting a family. But she was comforted by the fact that she already had grandchildren from her other child, Kamaluddin, and resigned herself to the fact that Khairy had a far more important role to play in assisting the political life of her husband.
Instead, Endon reserved her opprobrium for those whom she felt were encroaching on Abdullah and her own status as the senior-most woman in public life. One such person was Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, for whom Endon often gave the coolest of receptions. According to a close advisor of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, Rosmah was often reduced to a nervous wreck whenever she had to confront Endon. Usually, Rosmah can just push her way through with people. She was in the Mahani Daim league; a pushy, contemptuous and temperamental woman with an exaggerated sense of dignity. She often made disparaging remarks about Najib in front of other people, lacking the good sense to reserve such comments to the confines of the bedroom.
Yet, with Endon, Rosmah couldn’t get her own way. Endon was a gentle lady with a soft approach to conversation. But, when challenged, she could be fiery and whenever Rosmah raised her voice, Endon would swiftly put it down with a cutting ‘sindiran’ or ‘perli’. This, Rosmah could not stand. Rosmah felt, as a far more educated woman, she should be given more prominence than Endon. Yet Endon is a far more politically experienced consort compared to Rosmah and won public plaudits where Rosmah had none.
Rosmah expects, now that Endon is gone from the scene, she could play a more important role, being the senior-most wife of a minister. On the morning of Endon’s funeral, the atmosphere in Najib’s house in Taman Duta was like a Ramadhan bazaar. Hundreds paid court to Rosmah — something which she no doubt enjoyed.
But this will not be the case.
With the passing of Endon, another lady called Nori will now play a more important political advisory role to Abdullah. While Abdullah’s daughter-in-law, Azrene, will probably play host to social functions on behalf of her father-in-law, Nori, who shares many of her mother’s populist traits, will become the main solace for Abdullah. In that sense, Khairy’s position will strengthen and as long as he keeps on the straight and narrow, not straying too far from his marital bed and giving due deference to his role as only half a member of Abdullah’s family, he should be protected from the attacks of those eager to influence Abdullah against him.
A few days before Endon’s death, some very close friends of Abdullah, who had been with him through thick and thin from the early days of his foray into the realm of politics, remarked that things weren’t going the way they had predicted. Previously, they thought that with Endon gone from the scene, Abdullah would go back to the old circle of friends who have been the most tried and tested of his most loyal of followers. Instead, they found that, in the dying days of Endons’ life, Abdullah had begun to cling more tightly to Nori and Khairy’s younger set of advisors.
Their position looks unassailable.
No woman can replace Endon in Abdullah’s life. Their partnership was far closer than that of politician and wife. That is often the case in Malaysian politics. Malaysian Prime Ministers are often fiercely devoted to their spouses, such as proven in the case of the strictly monogamous Razak-Rahah and Mahathir-Hasmah duopoly. Abdullah is unlucky in having that relationship terminated so early on in his tenure. But he has comfort that unlike, for example, the Najib-Rosmah relationship, his was one of genuine affection and not merely a mutual alliance of ambition and interest. Such a partnership would be difficult to replicate even if someone else comes along to reduce Abdullah’s loneliness. For the time being, the passing of Endon Mahmood creates a vacuum in Abdullah’s life that is filled by Nori and her husband. They are the shoots that have replaced the comforting branch that was broken off by death last Thursday morning…
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 18 – Cannons behind his back
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